Operational Medicine

The FBI's Operational Medicine Program trains and equips special agent medics who provide care in high-stress tactical situations. The Washington Field Office's training scenarios included car accidents, heart attacks, and a helicopter exercise.

Video Transcript

A lot of people don't even realize that the FBI has an operational medicine program.

Every one of our medics at the Washington Field and throughout the FBI have regular cases that they work. They are FBI agents first. They are case agents first. They work their cases but then when we have a mission that comes up, they step out of that role as case agents, step into their role as a medic, and they will deploy as that medic.

My name is Doug Mohl and I am the operational medical coordinator of WFO, which means I'm the lead paramedic for Washington Field.

The FBI has a class called the Tactical Applications of the Emergency Medical Technician and it’s where we take street EMTs and paramedics and turn them into tactical EMTs and paramedics.

For this training exercise, what we wanted to do is make it real life from real life situations so the agent-medics are going to be treating someone with chest pain. It’s going to be a scenario where someone is in the office having chest pain.


Or a dive mission where the person comes up from a dive and they’re a little light-headed and they aren't answering questions appropriately.

We have a car crash scenario because a lot of time agents will be driving to and from work and come across a car crash. So we want to make sure they know not only how to deal with the patient but how to position a car safely.

First I’m going to try to position his airway as best I can.

OK. What maneuver do you want to use for that?

We have an allergic reaction scenario where we are trained to look for anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction

We do have one traumatic situation. We spend so much time on trauma as tactical medics that for this training exercise, we want to focus a lot on the medical. Medical calls are a lot harder than traumatic calls because trauma, if you break your arm, I can see that you broke your arm. For internal bleeding, for a heart attack, I can't see what’s going on, so it all comes down to being an investigator, asking the right questions, and being able to get the right answers and then interpret what those answers mean.

Circulation. Airway. Breathing. Good chest compressions. Basic airway management. Put an AED on. And call for help.

So as tactical medics, you have a lot more equipment that you need to carry with you. So you will have your belt with your firearm on it, your extra magazines, you may have a long gun attached to you, you’ll have a ballistic vest, you may have plates, you may have a helmet, you'll have goggles on, you may have hearing protection on so it’s hard to hear around you. So there are a lot of other distractions that you have just from a physical standpoint, lugging all that stuff around, weighing an extra 30 pounds, now kneeling over a patient.

Sometimes we need to remind them that if it’s not a tactical environment, if there are no bullets being placed down range, they can take their vests off, they can take their helmets off so they can render care more comfortably, because if they are having trouble doing CPR with their vest on, they aren't going to do what is the best interest of that patient.

And then at the end of the day we are going to do a helicopter exercise where we usually stop our scenarios at the point that we load someone into the helicopter, we want to train our people how to actually load into a helicopter. We are going to put them into a helicopter and show them how difficult it is to render care in a confined space, where you can't hear anything, it’s moving, it’s vibrating and have them think with all those distractions around them.

We have a diverse background of people interested in the OpMed program. At minimum, each SWAT team has to have one EMT basic. Some divisions have more than one. Some divisions have two. Some divisions have 12. Some divisions have over 20. Washington Field has seven paramedics, two of which are advanced capability paramedics and then we have 15 basic EMTs.

We have people from regular street agents that want to be in the medic program with no medical experience whatsoever. We are just looking for people that are motivated and that want to go above and beyond what they normally do. We will teach them the medical part, that’s no problem. But we want to people that are motivated to be able to go out, be able to deal with pressure, work in stressful situations, and be able to adapt.

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